Some student bloggers: from left to right, with country of origin. Tor Martin (Norway); me; Elif (Turkey); Olga (back row, Russia); Margarita (front row, Russia), Anderson (Brazil); Nina (Poland); Radhika (India). More students, representing many more nations, were on the other side of the camera. Other class blogs can be found here (scroll down to end of page).
We have a last chance to meet up at the ‘PR and the digital frontier’ talk on 1 May (here’s how to register for free if you’re a student), but otherwise classes have ended, so it’s time for some reflection. Reflection, remember, is something that appears to have been lost according to Marc Prensky:
Reflection is what enables us, according to many theorists, to generalize, as we create "mental models" from our experience. It is, in many ways, the process of "learning from experience". In our twitch-speed world, there is less and less time and opportunity for reflection, and this development concerns many people. One of the most interesting challenges and opportunities in teaching Digital Natives is to figure out and invent ways to include reflection and critical thinking in the learning… We can and must do more in this area.
Prensky published Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (part one, part two) in 2001, before blogs had become mainstream. Now, in 2007-8 with social networks having become the forum for instant, twitch-speed communications, blogs have emerged as a considered, reflective forum for self-expression.
This was a new, oversubscribed and experimental class; so what are my reflections?
- I had long resisted making blogging compulsory in class (it seems illiberal and against the spirit of free expression, rather like making voting compulsory in democracies). But since reflection, critical thinking and ‘learning from experience’ aren’t optional – I’m a convert.
- The use of PR Blogs by most of the class enables me to pay another tribute to a pioneer in digital PR education, Robert French (who is also behind PROpenMic) and to catch up with other leaders in the field (Karen Russell, Elizabeth Albrycht and others).
- The mix of MSc Marketing and MA Public Relations students made for some lively discussions.
- The guest appearance by Anna Farmery is still being discussed; she made a big impression.
- My experiment with ‘open source learning’ was only a limited success. Most students probably need a more didactic approach; culture and language undoubtedly play a part in this.
- Blogging may be justifiable in educational terms, but it raises awkward political and cultural issues. For example, I learnt that WordPress.com blogs are banned in Turkey (but not PRblogs.org, which also uses WordPress.)
- I’ve been hugely impressed with some of the MSc Marketing students, but in general I’m dismayed that some are still stuck in an advertising mentality. Just for you, here’s a bonus link: it’s the manifesto from Punk Marketing by Mark Simmons and Richard Laermer (disclosure, Simmons is my brother-in-law). Note in particular articles 5 and 12 – though this all applies equally to public relations.
- I’ve not finished assessing the student work, but it’s looking more polarised than usual with a much greater range from top to bottom of the class in terms of performance and engagement. In educational terms, this is a bad thing; in vocational terms, it’s how the free market works, so I’m not apologising (yet)…